Nov 22, 2007

Iridium flares.


Here's something I first heard about this summer. As you know, there are satellites up there - you can see them at night and have arguments with whomever you're camping with as to whether or not they're planes.

Some of them have big solar arrays. The most notable are the Iridium satellites that service Iridium satellite phones (so named because they are really valuable, rare, and brittle).

Every now and then - at predictable times - they reflect light from the Sun to us, often at a brightness more impressive than Venus (magnitude -4.4). This "flare" lasts just a couple of seconds. Heavens Above tells you when to see one in your area, and where to look. What they do not tell you is that it is always cloudy at that time.

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